In this documentary, in the form of a satellite map, chronologically tracks 200 years of growth of over 180 company towns across the United States. The intent is to show how these company towns had a significant impact on the growing local and national economies, national migration, and the American culture. Thus, each site plotted is linked to an authoritative source that explains how.
Most company towns were built to serve mining and logging operations, lumber, steel and textile mills, dam construction, or railroad expansion. Many were a paternal effort by employers, “capitalists with a conscience”, to establish middle-class values and ideals upon their working-class employees in order to economically attract and retain workers. All while having a monopoly strong-hold on the local economy via company stores; company provided housing and other necessary company-provided items. In some instances workers were compensated in script or credit rather than US currency, and in other instances the prices of goods were highly inflated. Many were built out in the wilderness and were the only source of employment and government. Others were subdivisions within existing communities. Some were even self-governing utopian or egalitarian communities like Oneida, NY. And, some resulted in strikes and violence due to the abuses such as in Pullman, IL.
The best company towns were planned communities with well-designed residences, parks, schools, libraries and meeting halls; while the worse company towns were considered shanty towns like Martainsville, IA; or used convict labor like in Sugar Land, TX. Some were federal-government created company towns such as Oak Ridge, TN which produced nuclear weapons or built dams like in Coulee Dam, WA. Despite the many company town failures, companies like Facebook and Amazon plan on developing their own future company towns. Company towns tended to fail due to a wide range of reasons: plant or mine or mill closures, societal ills, and the mobility provided by the automobile to the working class commuter.
Due to the wide misuse of the term “company town”, for the purposes of this map I define it as a place where the original stores, housing, city layout, municipal services, etc. were planned and built by one employer who established the community. That differs significantly from being a mill or factory town with many employers holding a common interest, or a pre-existing town dominated by a single employer, or a town that sprung up on its own around a new found mine.
Sources: Wikipedia’s List of Company Towns in the United States was used in making this map and refined and expanded to fit the above definition of a Company Town. Other more authoritative sources were then applied where available. Authoritative sources such as, the National Archives, the Smithsonian Institute and other government web sites, universities, libraries, corporate web sites, industry associations and historical societies. Many complete with photos of life in a company town.
Keyhole Markup Language (Google Earth KML)
AttributionGeorge Stiller, MyReadingMapped™
Map: History of Company Towns in the United States by George Stiller and Jim Lee is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Based on a work at climateviewer.org/. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at climateviewer.com/terms.
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